Battles between agencies leading to failure

22 April 2010

SAN FRANCISCO: The "battle" between digital and traditional agencies is contributing to the failure of many advertising campaigns, Kristi VandenBosch, ceo of Publicis & Hal Riney, has said.

VandenBosch was speaking at the Ad:Tech conference in San Francisco, covered in more detail by Geoffrey Precourt, Warc's US editor, here.

She suggested that rather than providing a coordinated service for their clients, traditional and interactive agencies frequently ended up in conflict with one another.

"Traditional and digital agencies are caught up with who gets to lead, but neither has earned the right,” said VandenBosch. "[Often] it is not a battle for leadership or control, but for who gets the credit."

The main cause of this situation is that traditional agencies generally emphasise "objects", whereas their counterparts that primarily focus on new media tend to think in terms of "systems".

"They do different things and they do it in different languages. The use of terminology, in fact, often is intended to exclude," VandenBosch said.

In demonstration of this, she cited a campaign for Mentos mints, which attempted to tap into the vast amount of existing online user-generated showing how they explosively combined with Diet Coke.

Created by BBH, this effort featured a lead character called Trevor the Mentos intern, but it failed to gain any viral traction. 

"They tried to capture lightning in a bottle. They came up with great creative, but it generated no traffic," VandenBosch said.

"There was no system behind the object. No plan for fan management. No plan for transactions. No idea of what happens first, what happens next, or what it all really means for Mentos."

She also argued that the TV spots produced by R/GA, a leading interactive agency, for Amerprise Financial showed this process in reverse. 

They featured a series of short employee vignettes, but while the "system" was clear the "objects" of the ads failed to convince.

"The agency had been given permission to create everything on behalf of the brand ... But why couldn't R/GA hire a great producer?” VandenBosch asked.

In order to solve this dilemma, she suggested a similar approach was required as that which was pioneered by Linux, the open source computer operating system.

This has employed a mixture of top-down instruction from the company itself and bottom-up input from its users, with traditional agencies and digital agencies playing these roles respectively in the ad industry.

"The next best thing to having good ideas is recognising good ideas from your users. Sometimes the latter is better," she said.

As such, agencies need to "learn the ability not to lead", which is not a sign of weakness or failure, but can lead to better results for clients and agencies.

"Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realising that your concept of the problem was wrong," VandenBosch argued.

Data sourced from Warc